"Bolshoi" means "big" in Russian. Built in 1856 by the architect Cavos, the auditorium, decorated in red and gold like the majority of Italian theatres of this period, can hold 2,000 spectators. The Bolshoi theatre dominated all the other theatres in the URSS throughout the Soviet period.
After the supremacy of the Imperial Maryinski Theatre in St Petersburg which lasted through to the Russian Revolution in 1917, Moscow, once again, became the capital of the country, and the Bolshoi, both opera and ballet, was the genuine ambassador for Communist Russia the world over. Some of the truly great Kirov dancers, Marina Sémionovoa, Galina Oulanova, and Ludmilla Semeniaka came and settled there, contributing to the theatre's reputation.
Nureyev never danced there. Following the division of the URSS in 1991, the theatre was privatized, and has suffered many setbacks. The level of its performances has dropped considerably as regards both lyrics and choreographies. The Maryinski Theatre in Saint-Petersburg, however, having retrieved its name from the Tsar era, seems to have regained its choreographic and lyrical reputation thanks to its director, Valery Gergiev.